What was once the largest American Elm tree in the world is now a pile of ash.
What remained of the famed Louis Vieux Elm in Pottawatomie County burned last week, leaving nothing but ashes beneath a metal gazebo erected several years ago to help preserve the dead massive stump that once supported the elm.
The smoldering ashes were discovered around 8:30 a.m. Friday by employees of the Pott County Noxious Weed Department.
Fire Supervisor Bruce Brazzle told Pott County Commissioners Monday he suspected the stump was set ablaze intentionally.
There was no lightning Thursday night within a mile of the site along the Vermillion River east of Louisville, according to the National Weather Service. “So I’m assuming it was a set fire,” Brazzle said. “It’s burned completely up. There’s nothing there anymore.”
More than three decades ago, official measurements taken by representatives of the Department of Forestry at Kansas State University determined that the Louis Vieux Elm was the largest of its species in Kansas (1978), the United States (1979), and finally, in the early 1980s, the largest in the world.
The giant elm, which sheltered travelers along the Oregon Trail more than 150 years ago, was proclaimed by foresters as a “one-tree forest.”
Age and the elements took their toll, however, and the tree gradually deteriorated and died.
Several years ago, with the blessing of the county commission, private investors attempted to preserve the massive stump by reinforcing it with concrete and erecting a metal overhead shelter to protect it from the elements.